Lemon Crumb Muffins


On the day I quit ballet, leaving the ballet company I’d been so excited to join and giving up my chance at performing all over the country with them, I sobbed uncontrollably. It was impulsive. My mother and grandmother had come to my class — something that was only allowed once or twice a year — and it had been a bad one.

We all have difficult days — some more so than others. It’s what we learn from them that propels us forward.

When my mom reprimanded me in the car for not trying my hardest, I said I wanted to quit. I didn’t mean it — but I was an angry adolescent, upset that my weak ankles had prevented me from moving up to pointe with my class that year.

I never expected my mother to take me seriously.

That experience taught me an important lesson: mean what you say and say what you mean. That’s something I’ve carried with me ever since. Though perhaps it was time for a gentle reminder of its importance. Universe, I hear you.

Sometime later, I started dancing again at a different ballet studio. But it wasn’t the same. It was a school for fun — without rigorous instruction or dress code or chances to travel and perform.

There was a lesson in that too. Some things — especially people — aren’t replaceable. You can’t expect two environments to be identical or that things won’t change when you do.

It’s not as though I had a future as a professional dancer, but I loved the stage and my fellow dancers and even my tough teacher who constantly reminded me to suck in my stomach and stand up straight. I was a dancer. It was what I did, how I defined myself and what I expected to continue for years.

We probably all have a story like this — where our raging, undeveloped emotions caused us to say and do things we didn’t really mean. Where we made mistakes that we regretted. I surely regretted that day.

There is no subtly in the emotions of growing young people, is there?

Maybe that’s the grace of growing up. These lessons, the ones that shape us and help us grow, are everywhere. They are in our handling of stress and difficult days, in our experiencing of our world, in our decision making. And, hopefully, they lead us to a bright future. My mistakes did, thankfully. I hope my kids’ mistakes do as well.

In the meantime, I will always do everything I can to give my kids a bright life. It’s my job as their mom, and my responsibility. And that includes making sure I send them off to school with a pleasantly full belly and healthy lunch.

These muffins can help with that. And unlike the not-so-subtle emotions of adolescence, these have the art of subtly down in the form of a subtle lemon flavor, a gentleness to it that’s more essence than slap you in the face. I like it that way. And the rich crumb topping delivers a pleasant sweetness and texture that’s not overpowering. Really, these muffins are all about the cooperation of flavors and textures. It’s like teamwork in a baked good.

You start by whisking together the wet ingredients. Then the dry ingredients, and the lemon juice, are whisked in too. The crumb topping is cut together in another bowl.

Then you fill the muffin papers, sprinkle the topping and bake.

They’re delicious straight from the oven. Don’t forget to have them with some fruit. Balance is important, after all.

Lemon Crumb Muffins
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
crumb topping
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cold unsalted butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-slot muffin tin with muffin liners. If using paper liners, spray each one lightly with cooking oil spray to prevent sticking. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and oil. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir until smooth, about 1 minute, and then let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together the flour and light brown sugar for the crumb topping. Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the mixture.
  4. Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin liners. Sprinkle the tops with the prepared crumb topping.
  5. Slide the muffin tin into the preheated oven and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden. A toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins should come out cleanly.
  6. Remove from the oven. These can be enjoyed immediately, or stored in an airtight container for up to five days.

Sarah Walker Caron

About Sarah Walker Caron

Sarah Walker Caron is editor of Bangor Metro magazine and senior features editor for the Bangor Daily News. She is the author of "The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook," (Sept. 2018, Rockridge Press) and the co-author of "Grains as Mains: Modern Recipes Using Ancient Grains" (March 2015, DK). Her recipes have appeared in the BDN, Betty Crocker publications, Glamour.com and more. She also writes about food at www.sarahscucinabella.com.